NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The goal of the Tennessee Hands-Free Law, which has been in effect since July 1, was to help drivers focus and prevent crashes.
However, News4 found that hands-free driving isn’t distraction-free driving, and experts agree.
After hearing complaints that Bluetooth and other hands-free devices were equally distracting, News4 put those tools to the test.
News4 enlisted the help of Argus Science, a company that makes special glasses that track eye movements, to reveal when drivers’ attention is pulled from the road.
Tracy Kornet wore the glasses while driving on a closed course and preformed tasks like changing the radio station, taking a phone call and using GPS. Bob Wilson, General Manager of Argus Science, analyzed the data from the glasses.
“It took about 20% of her time to find a radio station. She was off road task for two seconds at sometimes,” said Wilson.
Wilson said even though that time may sound short, it can translate to a long distance.
“If you do 55 miles an hour, that’s just over 80 feet per second."
In February, researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported drivers who use hands-free devices are better able to keep their eyes on the road, making them less likely to get in a crash. However, driving instructors said hands-free doesn’t mean distraction-free.
“The tech is wonderful, but you have to weigh that against distractions. You're being distracted against the task at hand. Anything that's against that, you try to eliminate it,” said Rick Courtney with Roadmaster Driver Training.
Whether you think you’re a better driver holding your phone or not, hands-free is the law and officers are enforcing it. Metro Nashville Police cited 46 drivers in the first month. The Tennessee Highway Patrol wrote 424 tickets across the state.
When it comes to keeping your eyes on the road, Wilson advised drivers placing their phones on the dash or attaching them to the windshield to place them right on the horizon line. He said it minimizes the amount of road your screen blocks and keeps your eyes as focused on the road as possible.